Pentagon recalling most furloughed workers, easing shutdown pain

The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, D.C. Credit: Getty Images
The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, D.C.
Credit: Getty Images

The Pentagon said on Saturday it would recall most of the roughly 400,000 civilian Defense Department employees sent home during the government shutdown, in a move that could greatly lessen the impact of the shutdown on America’s armed forces.

The exact number to be recalled remained uncertain. Civilian Pentagon employees comprise about half the 800,000 federal employees currently furloughed.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said a legal review of the “Pay Our Military Act,” signed by President Barack Obama on Monday on the eve of the shutdown, would allow him to bring a still unspecified number of civilians back to work next week.

The announcement came as Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives agreed to pay all furloughed employees retroactively once the government reopens. It was a rare moment of cooperation in the House as the two parties were entrenched in their positions on the shutdown. The U.S. Senate is expected to go along.

But the actions did not solve the basic problem – the failure of Democrats and Republicans to settle their political differences and agree on a bill to fund and reopen the government.

The House measure prompted Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter of New York to suggest that since the employees were going to get their salaries anyway, “why don’t we just let them come back to work?”

“This whole thing is crazy,” she said.

Outside the Capitol where Congress was meeting on Saturday, two small children sat at the foot of the stairs holding placards reading: End the shutdown” and “Stop acting like children.”

As they moved into the second week of a shutdown, members appeared no closer to finding a way to end it, or to head off a possible default by the government on October 17, the deadline for Congress to increase the government’s authority to borrow money.

Talk of using broader budget deals to bring the standoff to an end has picked up in recent days, but without any visible result.

Democrats say bills to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling could be resolved quickly if House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner permitted votes on simple, no-strings-attached measures.

But most House Republicans want strings attached, including one aimed at crippling Obama’s signature healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare, and Boehner has so far refused to promise votes on either, in part because he could face a revolt that might cost him his job.

Democrats have already begun efforts to force a vote on the shutdown using complex and time-consuming parliamentary procedures.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Boehner signed by 195 of 200 House Democrats, demanding a vote on a bill to reopen the government without any rollback in Obamacare.

Pelosi said if Boehner did so, they would agree to the Republicans’ government funding level for the next six weeks, more stringent than the Democratic level, which has already been approved by the Senate.

Democrats are also trying to persuade Boehner to convene a “conference committee” with the Senate to discuss broader budget issues, something Boehner has resisted, fearing that Democrats might use arcane House rules to bring other measures to the House floor, such as raising taxes on the wealthy.

Pelosi made what she called “an unprecedented offer.” She said if he would permit a House-Senate conference on funding for the rest of the year, Democrats would surrender their right to use the rules to add items that might embarrass Republicans.

Boehner’s press secretary, Michael Steel, brushed off Pelosi’s offer, saying, “At this point, it’s Senate Democrats and the president who are blocking progress on reopening the government and providing the American people fairness under Obamacare.

DEBT CEILING

The standoff, which began at the start of the new fiscal year on Tuesday and shuttered all but essential government operations, was sparked by Republicans’ determination to block or delay implementation of the healthcare law.

The law aims to provide healthcare to millions of uninsured Americans. Republicans argue it is a massive government intrusion into private medicine that will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket, put people out of work and eventually lead to socialized medicine.

Republicans are also seeking concessions in exchange for raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit. If the borrowing cap is not increased, the United States could go into default, with what officials and economists say would be seriously damaging consequences for the U.S. and global economies.

Democrats vow they will make no such concessions on the funding bill or the debt ceiling.

Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press released on Saturday that he did not expect to have to take any unusual steps to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt because he believes Congress will raise the debt ceiling.

“I don’t expect to get there,” Obama said. “There were at least some quotes yesterday that Speaker Boehner is willing to make sure that we don’t default,” he said.

“And I’m pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States doesn’t end up being a deadbeat,” Obama said.

Republicans blame the White House for the fiscal deadlock, saying the president is refusing to compromise.

After the House vote on retroactive pay, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican majority whip, said his party was ready to negotiate with Obama and his fellow Democrats. “The president is here this weekend, we are here this weekend. Now is the time, since everyone is in town, to pick up the phone and talk,” he said.

Scott Rigell, a Republican representative from Virginia who has called for a “clean” vote to fund the government that does not involve Obama’s healthcare law, said as far as he knew, there were no behind-the-scenes negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over the shutdown or the debt ceiling.

“No one is talking,” Rigell told Reuters.

Facing public anger over the government shutdown, House Republicans have adopted a strategy of voting piecemeal to fund some popular federal agencies – like the Veterans Administration, the National Park Service and the National Institutes of Health – that are partially closed.

Democrats have rejected that, arguing Congress has a duty to pass a bill funding the entire government.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Grimm choice: Tax fraud trial could dog NY…

Rep. Michael Grimm may be splitting his time between the campaign trail and a courtroom where he is due to face tax evasion charges.

Local

Met Opera, unions extend talks for 72 hours,…

Met Opera agreed to extend negotiations with its labor unions for 72 hours, preventing a threatened lockout, the organization said late Thursday.

Local

MAP: New York City street closures August 2…

Summer Streets, the NYC Triathlon, the Ecuadorian Parade and festivals will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on 'Calvary' and his very…

Brendan Gleeson discusses how "Calvary" began over drinks and how his priest character is the opposite of the officer he played in "The Guard."

Movies

Interview: Chris O'Dowd does funny and serious in…

Chris O'Dowd talks about "Calvary," an Irish comedy-drama about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) under fire.

Movies

'Alive Inside' and 'Code Black' are documentaries with…

Two new documentaries — "Alive Inside" and "Code Black" — portray different issues but suffer from the same problem.

Music

Caught a Ghost catches a soul/rap vibe

Jesse Nolan says Caught a Ghost's sound aims for two things everybody likes: soul music and '90s rap.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…